DV8 was last at the National Theatre with a piece tackling the world’s view of homosexuality, delivering a punch of cold, harsh realism about the cruel and often backwards nature of the world. Now they are back again with another equally powerful show, this time tackling the controversy subject of Islamophobia.
Can We Talk About This? is as literal a title as they come. The answer, from the audience’s reaction at the very start of the show, would seem to be no. When a dancer enters the stage and asks us how many of us feel morally superior to the Taliban roughly 20% put their hands up. How, the dancer goes on to ask us, can it be that we are not willing to express openly the belief that we are, most likely, standing on higher moral ground than a brutal militant group?
Mixing dance – or movement as DV8’s Artistic Director and founder Lloyd Newson prefers – with verbatim text, spoken with impressive ease by the performers, Can We Talk About This? features interviews from everyone from Islamic extremists imprisoned for inciting hatred to human rights campaigners fighting for gender equality.
Newson’s premise is that as a society we will happily criticise aspects of Christianity without fear of causing major offense or protest when the Pope comes to the UK without being called a racist, but to find fault with Islam or the idea of Sharia law governing parts of the UK is an insult and Isalmophobic. And while Newson’s voice is never heard in the piece, it’s clear from the arguments put forward in the 80 minutes we spend in the Lyttelton theatre that DV8 has taken a stance. With every extremist’s arguments diametrically opposed to women’s rights and human decency, it’s hard not to take their stance too.
[olitics may take up much of the energy of the piece, but the performers still have energy left to deliver movement as fierce and rigorous as the debate itself. The cast give elegant, emotive performances, impressively delivering their lines whilst frenetically jumping around stage or crawling along the floor.
While it might take a dance expert to fully understand the connection between the movement and the text, anyone with an interest in politics or religion would be wise to take in a DV8 show. There may be dancing but I promise you there’s not a pirouette in sight.